My excellent colleague Daniel, who blogs for us at Nature’s Great Beyond, has brought Wordle to my attention, and I now bring it to yours. It’s a tag cloud generator, and a very elegant one, I think, made by Jonathan Feinberg (who also, very coolly, used to drum for They Might Be Giants). I’ve used it on the three parts of Eating the Sun, in part to see if there are differences in the clouds that can have any meaning ascribed to them, in part because it is fun and pretty and easy.
The three parts, for those who have yet to buy or read the book, deal with the subject in three ways: the first looks at the recent scientific history of photosynthesis, the second looks at the impact of photosynthesis on the history of the earth, and the third looks at photosynthesis in the context of the current carbon/climate crisis. Some patterns are indeed there to see in the wordles: energy is an issue in the recent history and the implications, for example, but not so much in the section on the earth, where oxygen comes to the fore. Carbon becomes more and more dominant as the book goes on.
That aside, they are quite pretty, though not as good as Daniel’s wonderful “Origin of Species”, which has T-shirt written all over it, or vice versa, or whatever. You can click through for higher res. Wordle clouds aren’t automatically generated with a vaguely tree-ish shape, by the way: there’s been some unnatural selection in the process.
Images: generated by me using Wordle, and available under a creative commons license
Update: I’ve added another Wordle tag-cloud to the entry “What’s ‘Eating the Sun’ about?” that shows how reviewers have answered that question
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